Off to Knightshayes

The weather isn’t splendid but that doesn’t deter us, we are off to the National Trust property, Knightshayes. This magnificent building, and all its lovely grounds was originally owned by the Heathcoat-Amery family.

John Heathcoat was born in Derbyshire  in 1783, and his family were farmers; however, he was one of the many scientists and inventors of the time he changed the world through an industrial not social revolution; he designed and patented a machine to produce lace, which had previously been made by individuals on pillows and cushions with pins and patterns, slow intricate work, often done as piece work in the lacemakers’ own homes. His ‘manufactury’ – or factory which was near Loughborough became a victim of a different revolution, the Luddite revolts and was burned down  in 1816. Undeterred, he  moved his basis and many of his of his workers, to Tiverton in Devon, and that is where we are going today. He established a new lace-works which brought employment to many of the local people too; by the last decades of the nineteenth century, his was the largest lace-producer in the world.

Being by now a very wealthy family, owning not only the factories, but also much of the land in the area, a descendent of the original John Amory, now Sir John Heathcoat-Amory, had built a beautiful and fabulous home overlooking his factory in the distance, and nestled in the Exe valley.

We have been many times before, but are looking forward to revisiting, meeting friends, and wandering round the house, and the gardens too if the weather cheers up!

Another ice-house adventure

Although I have read many stories about ice houses – not houses made from ice, but little buildings used to store winter ice for use in the grand houses in whose grounds they were constructed, it was only when we visited Killerton in Devon a couple of years ago that I first saw an actual one.

it certainly made an impact on me because in one of my Radwinter books, the main character gets trapped when he falls into one, and he really thinks he is going to die there as its remote and so well insulated his shouts for help can’t be heard, even if there was anyone about.

At Easter, holidaying in Kent, we went to visit Scotney Castle which was built in the late 1300’s but not properly finished until two hundred years later.  Three hundred years later, in accordance with the fashion of the time, the architect Anthony Salvin, designed an ice house for the estate and it was built in 1841. What an amazing structure it was; all the materials were either from the estate of locally sourced. The brick lining of the chamber was made from bricks produced in the nearby village of Kilndown, the timber for the frame from the woodlands, and the heather for the insulated thatched roof from the grounds of the estate. During 2012 restoration, once again local materials were used and even the finial on top was made from local oak.

SCOTNEY (21)

During the winter, ice was collected from the moat and stored in the ice house; it was so perfectly designed and constructed that it could last for a year without melting. Any melt-water didn’t just sit in a slushy puddle at the bottom, but drained out and back into the moat.

SCOTNEY (63)Scotney Castle

. If you would like to read my book which features the ice house adventure,  it’s called Magick and here is a link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/MAGICK-RADWINTER-Book-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B00OHV4MR0/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1469993237&sr=8-5&keywords=lois+elsden

 

Brrm brrrmmmmm

Yesterday we went to Bicton Park Botanical Gardens situated in the beautiful otter valley, through which runs the River Otter, whose waters make Otter beer! We went to this lovely place in Devon for a reunion with my husband’s old school chums – and some of them were very old, but very lively and interesting to talk to. We actually met at beautiful Bicton House, and had a wonderful lunch there, but before the meal,  he and I wandered round the lovely gardens and grounds and then went into the little Countryside MuseumVintage which as well as agricultural and country items, houses the Reg Imry collection.

Reg Imray, born in 1911, has been deaf since birth but has always been fascinated by cars and motorbikes; since he was 19, he has built up an amazing collection of more than forty classic cars and bikes, and we saw just some of them are on display the  Country Life Museum.

Reg fell in love with  motorbikes began when he was only eight years old; a rather cruel teacher told him he’d never be able to have his own  motorbike because he was deaf. This made Reg determined to prove him wrong and he first had one when he was nineteen. During the war, Reg hoped to become a pilot and it was his dream to fly a Spitfires; however, due to his deafness this wasn’t possible and he worked in a factory making de Havilland Mosquitos aircraft.

Reg went on to  own over 168 vehicles since that first BSA when he was nineteen.. He raced at Silverstone, was a speedway rider and has travelled the world, winning over 200 trophies for his classic car and motorcycle collection.

Well done Reg!

BICTON (4)

To find out more about Reg, have a look at this:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-22944247

Spanish bluebells?

Out for a lovely country walk in deepest Devon yesterday and the hedgerows of the quiet lane were bursting with beautiful spring flowers.There were those I recognized immediately,  primroses, violets, periwinkle, vetch, bluebells… and white bells? I thought white bells were a cultivated garden variety, but here was a single plant shining out of the spring greenery.

There is a field as you come into our village which is called either the Donkey Field, or the Bluebell Field. Donkeys used to winter there in past times, bluebells cover the meadow every year… but I haven’t once noticed a white bluebell. Hyacinthoides non-scripta is the botanical name for bluebells, and they are native to Britain and western Europe; the white bluebells are actually Spanish plants… says one site I consulted. I can understand that may be so in areas near gardens where white bulbs may have been planted. However this whitebell was literally in the middle of nowhere, so unless a passing bird dropped one, then I must go with what I found out on another site, that whitebells are a mutation of the original blue.

Whatever it’s origin, it looked very pretty. Next time I see one I’ll smell it and look more carefully at the flower which might help properly answer the question, Spanish or mutant?

Merciless sea…

Living by the sea we often hear of tragedies involving people getting into difficulties, swimming in the wrong place or at the wrong time, getting stuck in sinking mud, having problems on boats/jet skis/dinghies… We don’t have any surfing round here because we have no surf, but  further down the west coast, along the beaches and bays of Devon and Cornwall there is mighty surf and a wonderful place for surfing.

During the summer months the popular beaches are well served by lifeguards, but as the season changes and fewer people go out on their boards, the service is curtailed  although there are big notices warning of the dangers, advising that there are no guards, and mentioning any local conditions such as rip tides.

The sea is merciless, and dangerous. Yesterday there was a terrible tragedy near Newquay, at Mawgan Porth and three people lost their lives, probably caught in a rip tide; thankfully four teenagers were rescued, but for the family of the three who died what a dreadful thing to have to deal with. Those three adults went to the beach to enjoy a sport they obviously loved…

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cornwall-29782487

 

Family holiday

It won’t be long before we are off on our annual family holiday; when I say family I don’t just mean myself, husband and two children, but I mean the four of us, plus girlfriend, and my four cousins and their other halves, and their children, plus some partners, plus their children… There will be twenty-nine of us going on our famhol! I don’t think there will ever be twenty-nine of us all at the same time; many of the children have work commitments so can only come for a few days, but it will be lovely to see them even briefly.

We hire a large house, usually an old farmhouse, but it is not just the number of people it accommodates, but the right selection of bedrooms to accommodate them. Double rooms, family rooms, and dorms for the older kids. In the past we have been to Derbyshire a couple of times, the Forest of Dean, Shropshire a couple of times, Yorkshire, Cumbria twice, and last year it was Devon… which was lovely but very chilly.

This year we’re going to Norfolk; an easy drive for the cousins as they live in the next county, but a 5-6 hour drive for us. We don’t care! Last year we had a forty minute drive to Devon and the others had to trail two hundred miles across country. Norfolk is where the Elsdens first arrived in England from Scandinavia, so I hope to do some family history research.

Each family takes a night to do the cooking, we will be cooking a tagine… one of lamb and one of chicken, and a vegetarian option. It will be lovely to be on holiday, but it will be even better to be with the family!